Monsterís Ball appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the time, the picture seemed quite good, but it displayed a number of concerns that left it short of greatness.
Sharpness generally appeared solid. A little softness interfered with some wider shots, but those issues were modest. Overall, the movie came across as nicely defined and distinct. Jagged edges and moirť effects created no problems, but I did notice a slight amount of edge enhancement at times.
Ball featured a fairly stylized palette, especially during its first half. As the relationship between Hank and Leticia developed, the colors became more natural and realistic. During the earlier portions of the film, though, many of the tones appeared quite (intentionally) desaturated, and the jail scenes featured a distinct green cast. In any case, the DVD replicated the colors nicely; whether stylized or natural, the hues appeared clear and vivid at all times. Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy without excessive thickness.
Where Monsterís Ball lost most of its points related to the area of print flaws. The movie displayed way too many defects. I saw some light grain at times, but the main concerns came from the frequent mix of grit and speckles. I also noticed occasional examples of spots, nicks, and streaks. None of these ever became overwhelming, but they definitely cropped up too frequently for a modern film. In the end, the rest of the image looked quite good, but the moderately heavy level of print flaws left Monsterís Ball with a ďB-ď.
While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Monsterís Ball lacked any significant problems, I gave it a ďBĒ due to its general lack of sonic ambition. The soundfield largely resided in the forward channels. Music displayed good stereo presence, and effects created a modestly engaging level of ambience. The surrounds usually stayed with general atmosphere, and they only came to life moderately during a few scenes; the execution segment used the rear speakers effectively, as did a rainstorm and a couple of other bits. However, the score and dialogue dominated the film, so donít expect a lot of effects activity from the sides or surrounds.
Audio quality seemed positive. Dialogue appeared natural and warm, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded accurate and distinct. They presented good depth and fidelity and displayed clear and realistic tones. Music worked best, as the score seemed vivid and lively. Dynamic range was positive, and bass response appeared deep and tight. Overall, the soundtrack worked fine for the movie.
The DVD release of Monsterís Ball packs a good roster of extras, starting with two audio commentaries. The first comes from director Marc Forster and director of photography Roberto Schaefer, both of whom were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. On the positive side, the two provide a chatty track, and they cover a lot of technical issues, especially in regard to their attempts to tell the story cinematically. They discuss much of the meaning behind their choices.
And thatís also the major drawback of the commentary. The pair spend a lot of time on this interpretation, and they come across in a rather self-congratulatory manner. They seem to pat themselves on the back for their cinematic cleverness and frequently praise the film in various ways. Fans of the movie will like the information they hear, but I didnít much care for the track due to its tone.
The second audio commentary presents director Forster along with actors Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton. All three sat together for this running, screen-specific track; Thornton splits toward the end, though, and isnít there for the filmís last act. Actor commentaries are the foolís gold of DVD extras. They look so appealing from that outside due to their star wattage, but they often end up being boring and uninformative. Although it has some moments, this commentary lacks much real data.
Not that itís a total loss. Forster contributes some facts not heard in the prior track - plus some redundant ones as well - while the actors add some decent notes about their performances. Thornton offers the higher degree of useful information, as he covers his unusual style of working; he prefers to goof off between takes, even when he does something very heavy and dark. Thornton also tosses in some funny comments along the way. Berry provides a few statements about her side of things, such as a chat about one way she wanted to do the scene in which she gets fired as a waitress, but she doesnít give us as much material as Thornton does.
Not that any of the trio provides scads of details. For the most part, this is one of those commentaries in which everyone tells us how great everyone and everything is. We learn how much they love this scene or that shot or the score or the script or the camerawork, etc. The majority of the track consists of that form of puffery, and it gets old. Fans of the movie might want to screen this one, as it offers just enough material to keep them interested, but others should probably skip both it and the prior commentary.
Next we find some video supplements, including four deleted scenes. These run between 48 seconds and 70 seconds for a total of four minutes, five seconds of footage. The first of these sheds a little more light on sad little Tyrell and seems moderately interesting. Another depicts Hank as he chats with Lawrence and feels pointless. The other two deal with Hank and Buck, and they appear redundant.
We get two featurettes. Getting Into Character lasts four minutes, 20 seconds and isnít really a featurette at all. Instead, it offers a collection of outtakes, all of which show Billy Bob Thornton at his goofiest on the set. These arenít the standard ďflub a line and laughĒ chum. Instead, we see Thornton as he offers bizarre improvised lines and also plays one scene as his character from Sling Blade. Itís good stuff - we could have used more of it.
Scoring the Film takes eight minutes, 19 seconds and concentrates on the movieís music. We hear interview clips from composers Chris Beaty, Thad Spencer, and Richard Werbowenko as well as director Forster and editor Matt Chesse. We also watch the composers at work in the studio. The program offers a decent look at the musical efforts, as the participants discuss the tone they wanted to achieve. However, the show seems a little thin and doesnít provide a lot of depth about the subject.
Finally, the DVD provides a trailer for Monsterís Ball. However, this isnít the original theatrical clip. Instead, it advertises the video release. One nice touch about this DVD: with the exception of the trailer, all of the video extras provide both English and Spanish subtitles. Only Paramount does this consistently, so itís nice to see another studio do it as well; all should have them.
I wanted to like Monsterís Ball and honestly thought I would; I often find a lot of merit in this sort of dark tale. However, the movie revels in its misery and fails to deliver a realistic or involving experience. Instead, it suffers from heavy-handed storytelling and excessive simplicity. The DVDís picture seems good much of the time but it suffers from too many print defects. The audio sounds clear and accurate, though it lacks much dimensionality, and the disc includes a pretty nice roster of extras. If you liked Monsterís Ball, youíll probably be pleased with the DVD. Despite the moderately weak picture quality, it still seems generally satisfying. However, I canít recommend Monsterís Ball to others who havenít seen it, as I donít think itís a good film.